Deputy mayor of Afghanistan's Kandahar shot dead

KABUL Tue Apr 20, 2010 7:54am EDT

KABUL (Reuters) - The deputy mayor of Kandahar was shot dead while going to pray at a mosque, Afghanistan's Interior Ministry said on Tuesday, the latest act of violence in the southern city where NATO troops plan their next major offensive.

Kandahar has seen an upsurge in attacks in recent weeks, ahead of a planned U.S.-led offensive designed to assert control in coming months over the largest city in the south and birthplace of the Taliban movement.

Deputy Mayor Azizullah Ziarmal was shot dead with a pistol while going to the mosque to pray on Monday evening, the Interior Ministry said. It described the gunmen as "terrorists" but gave no further details.

Kandahar has seen a surge in attacks in recent weeks. Ziarmal's shooting came hours after a bomb strapped to a donkey killed three young nephews of a prominent ally of President Hamid Karzai in the center of the city.

The bulk of the 30,000 additional combat troops ordered to Afghanistan by U.S. President Barack Obama last year are expected to be deployed to Kandahar in a campaign to root out the Taliban from their spiritual homeland starting in earnest in June.

The Taliban have described recent attacks in the city as a warning to NATO troops ahead of the offensive.

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